Q: What is a HiPPO?
A: HiPPO stands for "Highest Paid Person's Opinion."
Jim Barksdale, CEO of Netscape, famously said what could be summarized as Data or HiPPO, when he said "If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine."
Q: Where did the term HiPPO originate?
- Avinash Kaushik and Ronny Kohavi met in August 2006 at a restaurant in Palo Alto, when Avinash mentioned the term HiPO, which stood for Highest Paid Opinion. Well, that wasn't going to work at Microsoft because that stands for High Potential 🙂
- Ronny e-mailed Avinash, saying that the ExP team decided to use the HiPPO acronym with an image of a HiPPO.
See email thread.
- Avinash then blogged about this here in October 2006.
- The first peer-reviewed academic paper to mention HiPPO was “Practical Guide to Controlled Experiments on the Web: Listen to Your Customers not to the HiPPO." It appeared in KDD 2007.
Q: Why are we using this term and the mascot?
A: We actually love the animal. Squeezing a HiPPO helps relieve stress when a feature decision is made on the basis of opinion alone. The "Highest Paid" part of the acronym refers to people who have final responsibility for product feature decisions. We want those important decision makers to have access to high quality data. The Experimentation Platform uses one of the best methods ever devised to gather high quality data—the controlled experiment.
We gave out thousands of HiPPOs at Microsoft to help change the culture, and it (partially) worked 🙂